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The Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights


Guest Schumer and Gianaris
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Guest Schumer and Gianaris

New Schumer Report Finds More than of the "Extreme Delays" of 3 Hours or More Across the Country are Flights that Are in And Out of NYC Area Airports

 

Federal Legislation Set to be Considered By Full Senate Next Month Guarantees Passengers Water, Fresh Air and the Right to Go Back to the Gate if Their Flight is Severely Delayed

 

Schumer, Gianaris: Passengers Experiencing Extreme Delays Nationwide Deserve Nationwide Relief

 

After 100 passengers trying to fly from John F. Kennedy Airport to Minneapolis were left stranded on the tar-mac for more than six hours, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and New York State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris will call for swift passage of new federal legislation to create the first ever nationwide passenger bill of rights that would protect air travelers in New York and across the country. The officials said that while the primary focus of the FAA should be to reduce the delays that have crippled New York airports for years, until the agency show signs of progress, New York City airline passengers and passengers across the country who bear the brunt of those delays deserve relief. The federal bill of rights, authored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would ensure that travelers can no longer be unnecessarily trapped on airplanes for excessive periods of time or deprived of food, water or adequate restrooms.

 

Schumer and Gianaris released a new report showing that 52 percent of the extreme delays in the United States are flights coming in and out of New York City area airports. Two weeks after passengers were stranded on a Minnesota tarmac for almost six hours, more than 100 Sun Country passengers in New York waited that long for their Twin Cities-bound plane to depart.

 

“While the FAA has in the past a hear no evil, see no evil approach to addressing the unbearable flight delays crippling New York City area airports, it’s the passengers who feel the pain,” Schumer said. “But, until the FAA does something about those delays, the least we can do is ensure that passengers are treated and respectfully while they wait on the tarmac. Some airlines have taken the initiative, but as delays are now a nationwide crisis, we need a nationwide solution. This plan gives iron clad rights to the millions of passengers who have been stranded and left of the tar-mac for hours.”

 

"Enough is enough. The abuse of America's airline passengers has gone on too long. Our leaders in Washington must now rise to the occasion and act to protect the flying public," said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), author of the nation's first Airline Passengers Bill of Rights law. "If the states will not be allowed to protect airline consumers, the federal government must. Thanks to Senator Schumer, I am hopeful this issue will be resolved once and for all on a national level."

 

According to the latest federal statistics, passengers aboard 278 planes suffered tarmac delays of three hours or more in June alone, with 90 of those flights in and out of New York City area airports. Since January 2007, 200,000 domestic passengers have been stuck on 3,000 planes for three hours or more waiting to take off or taxi to a gate.

 

The Schumer backed bill would require airlines to offer passengers the option of safely leaving a plane they have boarded once that plane has sat on the ground three hours after the plane door has closed. This option would be provided every three hours that the plane continues to sit on the ground. The legislation also requires airlines to provide passengers with necessary services such as food, potable water and adequate restroom facilities while a plane is delayed on the ground.

 

Assemblyman Gianaris was the prime sponsor of a 2007 New York state law establishing the first-in-the-nation Airline Passengers Bill of Rights. Rather than complying with the law, the airline industry spent its money challenging the Bill of Rights in the courts, which eventually struck down New York's law on the grounds that the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate this issue.

 

The federal legislation provides two exceptions to the three-hour option. The pilot may decide to not allow passengers to deplane if he or she reasonably believes their safety or security would be at risk due to extreme weather or other emergencies. Alternately, if the pilot reasonably determines that the flight will depart within 30 minutes after the three hour period, he or she can delay the deplaning option for an additional 30 minutes.

 

The plan also requires air carriers to develop and submit to the Secretary of Transportation their own program, incorporating medical considerations, to ensure that passengers are provided a clear timeframe under which they will be permitted to deplane a delayed aircraft. The Secretary would be required to make the plans available to the public. In the absence of such a plan, passengers would have the option of safely deplaning a grounded aircraft three hours after the plane door has closed. This option would be provided every three hours that the plane continues to sit on the ground.

 

In addition Schumer said, delay statistics alone do not tell the whole story. This is because airlines have, in many cases, opted to lengthen scheduled flight times, particularly along heavily congested and frequently delayed routes. A comparison of present day airline schedules to 1997 schedules found that published trip times are about 10% higher than they were 10 years ago.

 

The Schumer-backed bill is very similar to the New York State plan, authored by Gianaris stipulated that all airlines operating out of New York airports are required to provide passengers with food, water, fresh air, power, and working restrooms on any flight that has left the gate and been on the tarmac for more than three hours.

 

Schumer said the full senate is poised to take up the legislation this fall and he is today calling for swift passage saying “airline passengers have waited long enough.”

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